South Coast

My love, the moderns are not here
To bleat and shiver and ask why,
Without the breast flesh of a pigeon,
Like a cyst in the organs.

Your blade cut me once.
My cheek a fire on a distant island.
As a sacrament, a doorway, a mother’s love,
I wait in obscurity for my own insipidness to leave me.

An aroma of suffocation covers the ground.
No poet? No south coast, no blood orange, no cinnamon.
Only a dull man following the flower pots up the stairs
Without the scent of death on his street shoes.

I Want to Tell You

The candles
on the dining room table
have burned low.

I like seeing
them gutter and swell,
wax running
everywhere.

I know
it drives you crazy—
forgive me.

I love their
last breaths,
so loose lipped.

Presence of Absence

(After Herman Melville)

It appalls me in some dim and random way.
In nature it enhances beauty, as in pearls or gardenias.
In people, it offers power over others.
In monuments of death, it implies sympathy and light.
In brides, innocence and purity.
In the elderly, a benign benevolence.
To the old Iriquois, it meant the deep winter sacrifice of a sacred dog.
Roman Catholics see in it the Passion of our Lord.
In the vision of St. John, it meant shining robes for the redeemed.

Yet inside this color is a panic in the blood.
Remove some of the kinder associations and combine it
with a terrible object and it magnifies that terror
with a ghastly mildness and a pale dread.
To the shark, the polar bear, the squalls of the Southern ocean
it adds a supernatural and a nameless terror.

The tall pale man of the Eastern European forests
gives the wanderer as much inner darkness as the milk foamed sea
gives the sailor. A young colt in a sleepy Vermont valley
will stamp and snort at a shaken bear skin. Though the colt has
no memories of past violence, it carries an instinctive,
an inherent knowledge of the demonism of the world.

Mystic signs carry these ancestral hints, so to me they must
exist somewhere. Is there a dumb blankness of annihilation
in the distant stars? Or a colorless atheism from which we shrink?
Nature paints the world in a sexual riot of color.
While the paintbrush is colorless, look at its source
long enough and you will receive a blindness that removes
both the world’s beauty and the terror of seeing it.

Driving to Corvallis

Bone blue sky.
Rubbish radio.

Arctic summer light rolls
sideways across the cabbage fields.

The skin of the land pulled taut
like a great sturgeon back.

Wild mustard along the fence line
and a burst of bird lightning.

Mr. Rooter smiles as if Oregon
were a gridiron of buttered waffles.

By the mailbox, a woman picks
blackberries in a ditch.

On the hill, a giant white cross
with its cash crop of Sunday cars.

It’s hard to know when to pull over.
True velocity is being fresh within.

Lines in the Vermeer painted fields
so red they cannot be eaten.

Eye Motes #3

1
We gathered wild asparagus beneath the powerlines.

2
A hummingbird weighs the same as a nickel.

3
Somewhere the new Mozart is fleeing a patron.

4
Betrayed by fiat currency we drank from each others mouths.

5
The reticulated arms of trees by the side porch.

6
Recall whisking tea during the ceremony, the sound in the bowl.

7
New grandchild awaits birth and surgery; mother a slow savage.

8
Last night before sleep, an Armageddon of choice.

9
The sky let down one hollow canyon.

10
A dagger of ice falls into Glacier bay.

11
I clean the orchard mud from my rolled up pant legs.

12
Where once we hunted black tail deer, sculpture and swallows.

Subway

A carnival of shoes, tracked and true.
  False to travelers who wander aloud,

soft in their thoughts, catatonic in the breakfast sun.
  Shade in the tunnels, the mud-soaked margins,

midway inside the mad and quickened place,
  carried away — a steelpan artist!

Scientist of twing: ba-da-ting, ba-da-ting—relief
  throbs the green and tiled halls.

Cornered by Trinidad, alert and bible high,
  below him a mutt and a Slurpee cup.

Plates of bystanders—a Greek salad of hurry.
  Calmly the former merchant marine,

deserted, he calls out the chorus—sublingual sounds,
  dog eared by feet and the rumbling train.

Speedway

Go with the loud, the sweet, the high
Ones. It doesn’t mean a thing,
On the slick hardpan of Nazareth’s curves,
To bounce the brickyard wall–

Or Portland for the G I Joe,
Under the mussel clouds,
If in first place beneath the stands,
Your engine throws a rod.

Oversteer, push, in dirty or clean
Air, down force is your hot friend.
It’s bump and run to spray the wine,
Or it’s grenade and catch the fence.